A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Dec. 4, 2002 at 3:00 AM
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Today is Dec. 4.

American journalist Terry Anderson was finally freed by his pro-Iranian Lebanese captors after more than six years imprisonment on this date in 1991. He was the final American hostage to be released in Lebanon. Anderson had been held since March 1985 -- one of 15 Americans held from two months to as long as 6 1/2 years. Three of those hostages were killed while in captivity.

On the same day Anderson was freed, Lincoln Savings & Loan Association chairman Charles Keating was convicted on 17 counts of securities fraud. Keating was one of the most controversial figures in the S&L scandals of the late 1980s. His sales personnel had persuaded depositors to put their money into high-risk junk bonds. Keating later said he was broke, although he flew from the West Coast to Washington, D.C., and then to London to say so.

National security adviser Robert McFarlane resigned on this day in 1985. President Reagan named Vice Admiral John Poindexter to succeed him. Both McFarlane and Poindexter would later become embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair -- in which arms were traded for hostages in the Middle East and the profits funneled to the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government at a time when Congress prohibited such U.S. government support.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the liquidation of the Works Progress Administration on this date in 1942. The WPA had been created during the Depression to provide work for the unemployed. Its dismantlement was a sign of U.S. economic recovery.

India joined East Pakistan in its war for independence from West Pakistan on this date in 1971. East Pakistan would become the republic of Bangladesh. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were all previously part of the British colony of India.

President George H. Bush ordered U.S. troops to Somalia on this date in 1992. They were part of a U.N. peacekeeping force protecting humanitarian relief convoys in the east African nation, which was plagued by civil war and widespread hunger.

A Michigan man, Jonathan Schmitz, was sentenced to prison on this date in 1996 after being convicted in the slaying of a gay man, Scott Amedure, who had confessed to having a crush on Schmitz during the taping of "The Jenny Jones Show." The segment never aired.

And it was on this date in 1998 that the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying into orbit a U.S. component of the International Space Station. Once in space, the astronauts fastened the component, named Unity, to a piece of the ISS launched into space by the Russians the previous month. When the space station is finally finished, it'll be 356 feet across and 290 feet long and able to support a crew of seven.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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